China sentences 20 to jail for CCTV fire

Former CCTV construction head gets 7 years

BEIJING -- China sentenced 20 people to jail Monday for their involvement in a deadly fire at the China Central Television's iconic headquarters, state media reported.

Xu Wei, the former head of CCTV's construction bureau, was sentenced to seven years in jail, after he pleaded guilty last month to playing a role in an illegal fireworks display that triggered the fire, according to a statement by the Beijing No. 2 Intermediate People's Court, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

Nineteen others who were being tried in the case were given sentences ranging from three years to six-and-a-half years in prison, Xinhua said.

Earlier news reports alleged that Xu had ignored safety warnings and ordered that the powerful pyrotechnics be used for the CCTV-funded Lunar New Year fireworks show last year.

The massive fire engulfed the futuristic complex in downtown Beijing, leaving one firefighter dead and eight others injured. The blaze whipped through the 520-foot (159-meter) Mandarin Oriental hotel on the compound, leaving its steel frame gutted.

The 5 billion yuan ($731 million) complex also houses the network's headquarters — a pair of enormous, leaning buildings of black glass and steel that were not damaged in the fire.

The others convicted and sentenced included CCTV staffers as well as employees from two construction companies that were responsible for fire prevention and security during the fireworks display.
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